Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why keep a sketchbook?

I'm sure I've mused on this question before but as we come to the end of the year I'm thinking a lot about my intentions for the next one.

I have let my sketchbook practice slide. Not because I don't want to sketch but because I've been busy with this and, you know, life.

But I do want to sketch and I want to make it a habit so that it becomes ingrained in the pattern of my days.

Habits are useful because they are things we do without conscious thought or consideration (or self-bargaining). Brushing teeth, for instance. I'm not going to skip that because I don't feel inspired. It's the same with other things I want to be a part of my life - like drawing.

But to establish a habit you have to know the underlying reasons you want it to become second-nature.



This morning I went out to sketch (after a long break) and so I have been giving it some thought.

Here are five reasons I want regular drawing in a sketchbook to be a part of my life:

1. I want to record the world as I see it. Both as a potted account of my life to look back on in the future and something my children may be interested in one day.

2. I want to connect with others. One of the most rewarding things about being a sketcher is the community out there. I love talking about sketching with others - both online and in real life. I love the discussion it generates which can lead to fresh directions and ideas and the discovery of new techniques and materials, not to mention friendships.


3. The chance to make meaning out of chaos. Life can alternately seem either painfully predictable or like a series of confounding, random events. Keeping a sketchbook over time can illuminate patterns in our lives. We often return to certain places and themes. We can be attracted to subject matter that may seem random at the time but begins to take on an interesting significance when it is revisited. What we are drawn to draw (pardon the pun) says more about us than we might think.

4. I want to slow down and be present. I've tried meditation. Many times. I just get too wriggly, my back hurts, I get itchy. I have never had any of these problems when immersed in a drawing. Time becomes irrelevant, the world falls away. It's me and the page. You can't will that kind of mindfulness.

5. Refining my style. Personal style isn't something we choose, but a way of drawing that develops from practice. It's the doing it which creates the style, not the thinking about it.


So those are the main reasons I want to maintain a regular sketchbook practice. There are probably more I'll think of after this. But for now, this pretty much covers it.

I've also identified my barriers to keeping a sketchbook:

Problem 1: Too tired at night. Solution: I must try to do a drawing, however quick, before lunchtime whenever possible.

Problem 2: Don't like 'ruining' pages with ugly drawings. Solution: Keep two sketchbooks. One 'nice' book for location drawings (when I can usually spend a little more time on the drawing and am not wrangling kids) and one for home with paper I'm not precious about. That way I can dash off a drawing over breakfast and won't mind if the kids draw in it too.


Problem 3: Uninspired unless out on location. Solution: make sketching at home a 'location' experience. I can never get excited about sketching a single object. But if I sketch a little scene at home (there are a lot of 'little scenes' that my girls make every day!) then that would give the sketch context, which I really need for my own motivation.

Problem 4: Absence of a true habit. Solution: sketch daily. I really don't like giving myself rules like this but actually, I think it's the thing that's going to work. This doesn't necessarily mean I share every sketch online. I would freeze. The stakes would be too high. But I do need to make drawing a regular part of my day - just like brushing my teeth. Gretchen Rubin says, 'What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while'.

I also need to remember how it feels to sketch (wonderful) and how it feels to be finished with a sketch. It's satisfying, even if I'm not happy with it. Because I made something out of nothing with my own hands. How often do we get to do that?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hanging my exhibition

Head over to my studio blog for a beautiful series of photos taken by Maria Colaidis yesterday while we were hanging my solo exhibition of acrylic paintings.

Jodi Wiley - 'Home Is Where the Light Is' Montsalvat - Photo by Maria Colaidis

My show 'Home Is Where the Light Is' is on at Montsalvat in Melbourne from today until 17 January 2016. (It's also the most incredible place to go sketching, by the way!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New book on creativity - an exclusive look!

I have just had the extraordinary honour of getting a first look at Jackie Case's book on creativity Flying Penguins which is currently only available through her Pozible campaign.

Flying Penguins by Jackie Case

I have met Jackie only a few times but her warmth, humour and generosity as an artist shines through in this book, as it does in real life.

Jackie Case first built up her reputation and skills through exhibiting in local Melbourne cafes and is now represented internationally by The Rebecca Hossack Gallery. She's since had sell-out shows at various Art Fairs, a solo exhibition in New York, as well as exhibitions in many other cities around the world.

So it's a real privilege to have an established, international artist share their secrets of creativity in print.

Jackie gives us some of her own story and background (she started out as a graphic designer) before launching into her fascinating approach to generating ideas.

But the book is not just theory - it's a practical guide to working out what you want to make, how you want to make it and where you want your creation to appear. There are questions and exercises. It's very hands-on. Scissors are involved!

Excerpt from Flying Penguins by Jackie Case

Without giving too much away about her method, I will say when I read about it I instinctively felt that it would work for anyone - not just visual artists but anyone wanting to be more creative and make stuff.

Her approach gives insight into the very real way that creative people work (whether they know it or not) by making unusual and unique connections between ideas.

One of the best things about this book is its accessibility. Jackie uses her natural humour throughout and I actually found myself laughing out loud.

Image source: http://www.pozible.com/project/202109

There are also a very generous number of the beautiful, delicate and endearingly quirky pencil drawings for which she is renowned - that alone makes the book worth getting!

The Pozible campaign Flying Penguins ends on 10 December 2015 and is currently the only way to get a hold of the book. The campaign has already reached its target (just 24 hours after launching) so it will definitely be published. The rewards available for backing this are fabulous - including a limited number of signed books (which is what I chose!).

This book is great for anyone just getting started in any creative endeavour but also a refreshing tool for those more established in their field. If you're at all creatively-minded then I recommend taking a look!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Recent sketches about town

It's been too long between posts - my apologies - I have been distracted. Mostly by this upcoming exhibition which I'm getting quite excited about.

Even though I've been busy, I do still valiantly throw the sketchbook into the bag daily in the hope I will get a spare moment to record the world around me.

Here are some sketches I've managed recently...

The following two were done as I ran some errands in the city. I do love a bicycle propped up against a pole. That's the Lincoln Hotel across the road. This scene feels very 'Melbourne' to me.


And the next one is unmistakably Melbourne. One day I will do a drawing of Flinders Street Station that I'm happy with but in the meantime, I'll chip away at that iconic Melbourne building with its secret, abandoned ballroom hiding tantalisingly inside somewhere.


Scones at the lovely Jam and Cream cafe with my mum. This kind of sketching environment is probably my favourite - you can imagine why.


We took the kids to the beach and while everyone was occupied playing with seaweed and fishing rods and wot not, I got the sketchbook out. I enjoyed experimenting with creating a frame with masking tape. It was fun to pull the tape away when the paint had dried.


Lastly, I've done a couple of stints gallery-sitting at the Banyule Award for Works on Paper, in which my painting Marginalia is a finalist. Kicking back here with a coffee-cup sketch.


If you're in Melbourne the exhibition is on at Hatch Contemporary Arts Space until 12 December and is well worth a visit.

Marginalia - Jodi Wiley, watercolour on paper. Finalist - Banyule Award for Works on Paper 2015

As I finalise everything for my solo exhibition ('Home Is Where the Light Is' at Montsalvat) and as summer approaches, I look forward to getting the sketchbook out more regularly. The next thing I'm itching to experiment with is a dip pen and ink. Will let you know how it goes!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sketching Port Fairy

Last weekend we loaded the kids into the car and took off to beautiful seaside Port Fairy.

Jodi Wiley in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook

We were headed to the opening of the wonderful Biblio-Art exhibition at Blarney Books & Art, in which I have a little painting. (More about that here.)

And, of course, a weekend of sightseeing, beach-walking, shell-collecting, fishing, llama-feeding (who knew?) and me sneaking in a few sketches!

Jodi Wiley, Blarney Books & Art sketch

Jodi Wiley, Port Fairy Sea Scouts sketch

Jodi Wiley, Port Fairy Lighthouse sketch

Random Llama

We had the most wonderful time and we all can't wait to go back!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Urban Sketchers - Cubed in Melbourne Central

Last Saturday the Melbourne Urban Sketchers were invited by Melbourne Central to take an 'Unlocked' tour by local historian and author Dale Campisi and then draw the centre.



During the tour we were taken onto the roof to see the glass cone up close and an amazing view of the surrounding buildings. We also got to stand inside the cone, behind a railing which circles it and view the shopping centre below from a bird's eye view. Talk about vertigo. You have no idea how excited I was.
 

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to stay and draw from these behind-the-scenes places, which is just as well, because I might never have left!

Looking up at the old shot tower (built in 1888), set against the ultra-modern glass cone is both a dizzying and awe-inspiring experience. I remember the first time I saw it when the centre opened in the early nineties and it's still just as impressive.

The centre itself has changed over time - undergone refurbishments, different retailers have come and gone  - but Coop's Shot Tower and Kisho Kurokawa's Glass Cone have become Melbourne icons.

After our tour, around 70 keen sketchers scattered throughout the centre to find vantage points from which to draw.

The distinctive features of the centre present lots of challenges for the urban sketcher: perspective, scale, decisions about detail and expression.
 

I had a hard time myself deciding what to draw. I avoided fully tackling the glass cone, knowing others would do it better justice than me. I tried to capture different aspects of the location: the shot tower against its modern retail environment, the abstract nature of the cone, the fact that it's autumn and city trees put on a lovely show in front of the centre, and I also drew in one of the laneways, which the centre consumed but also preserved when it was built.

Looking at what everyone came up with at the end was a lot of fun. It's so interesting to see a range of interpretations of the same location. People are drawn to different things, but when they sketch the same scene, their perception of it is completely different.


All of this sketching has culminated in an exhibition currently on show at Melbourne Central. If you're in Melbourne you can find the diverse work of the Melbourne Urban Sketchers displayed in the Glass Cube on Level 2.
 

It can be viewed whenever the centre is open and will be there for another week (Tuesday 26 May will be the last full day of display). It's well worth a visit.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Growth, style and change

It's been a while since I've posted but I've still been sketching madly. (I show many of my sketches daily on Instagram these days.) And I've been thinking a bit about how my sketchbook practice is developing.

Around the beginning of the year I realised if I wanted to sketch more regularly, my style would have to change.

I love nothing more than spending an hour or more on a sketch. Like this one done with fellow urban sketchers over a relaxed catch-up in a cafe.

Jodi Wiley - Kinfolk Cafe, Bourke Street, Melbourne in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook

But in day-to-day life, like most people, I just don't have the luxury of time. I have to squeeze sketches in between errands, or scratch something out before the kids beckon.

I've been experimenting with a looser style, smaller sketchbook and limited materials.

Jodi Wiley - Brunswick Street, Melbourne in a Rhodia pocket sketchbook

I happened upon the blues by accident one day when all I had in my bag was two different shades of blue markers. I did my sketch anyway and liked the result. So I've continued with the blue. It's very versatile.

Jodi Wiley - Melbourne sketches

And I really don't mind the bleed-through of the markers. It makes me less precious about putting pen to paper.

The orange of the scooter is thanks to my five-year-old kindly lending me her colour pencils.

Jodi Wiley - Degraves Street, Melbourne in a Rhodia pocket sketchbook

What I've also realised about myself is that I find these sketches much more fun to do. When I'm at home and have a stretch of time and all my materials at hand, I just don't feel motivated to experiment. But when I'm out and about, pressing up against time, with only a handful of pens, I feel energised.

When I think about why I sketch, it's not to create a perfect book. It's because it's fun (why else would you do it?), I want to experiment and grow as an artist, and I have an irrepressible need to record and interpret my world.

A book full of imperfect sketches is better than an empty one.